Hannes Magerstaedt | Getty Images
Male models pose outside the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship clothing store in Munich, Germany.
“We think this is because the physically fit male we used activated the classic male competitive instinct. We know that tall, athletic-looking men typically have greater success in economic and mating markets. So when male shoppers saw him, we suspect, they sensed a rival and responded by signaling their own status: they opened their wallets,” Otterbring said. The athletic assistant also had proportionally more of an influence on men of a shorter stature.
As well as being drawn to more expensive products in the presence of a fit male employee, men were also keen on goods with larger logos. Men and women in a separate study were given photos of “physically dominant” and “physically non-dominant” men and asked to rank them out of five for attractiveness.
Then they were asked to imagine they were shopping for clothes and had to choose from a variety of logo sizes. The men who had seen the picture of the fit male picked significantly larger logos than those who had seen the average male. There was no difference in the choice of logo size for women.
“Because not all men can compete with a strong physique, an alternative way to signal status is through conspicuous consumption,” the authors of the study, originally published in the Journal of Marketing Research, stated.